Prank-O Before Shark Tank
Prank-O was created by two friends, Arik Nordby and Ryan Walther. Prior to creating the company, the former was a partner at the satirical giant The Onion, which he had joined back in the early 90s. As for Ryan, he worked as a humble box salesman.
As it is, the two had met at an adult swim class and bonded over their mutual love for laughter. They both enjoyed playing pranks on their friends and family and wanted a way to do it without disappointing anyone.
After some thinking, they decided to make their own prank gifts. In 2009, they co-founded an “alternative humor products brand” called 30Watt, which sold various novelty items, including Prank Packs, which are essentially empty boxes that have ridiculous “products” on the outside. Customers would purchase the packs and put real gifts inside, but the recipient would have no idea what they’re getting due to the absurdity of the box.
Interestingly enough, it was not Ryan nor Arik’s idea to pitch on Shark Tank. They had actually received a message from the show’s executive producer asking them to consider via their customer service line. The duo was skeptical at first but were eventually able to confirm the authenticity of the offer.
With that, they began to plan their “Shark Tank prank”. They were later flown to California, where they filmed the segment, which was included in the 2018 Shark Tank Holiday Special.
Prank-O On Shark Tank
Ryan and Arik stride into the tank and introduces themselves as the founders of Ryanarik. They let the sharks know they’re seeking $75,000 in exchange for 15 percent of their business.
The sharks look on as the pair begin their pitch. Arik starts by saying that he’s always on the go as a freelance photographer and because of that, he doesn’t get to spend much time with his young son. Ryan then jumps in and says that’s why they invented the Snack Hat, which they explain, is “the perfect solution for balancing work and family.”
The camera then zooms in on their display, which shows the “Magnetic Snack Hat.” The sharks immediately laugh.
Arik goes on to explain that the Snack Hat is a patent-pending neoprene cap that easily sildes onto most heads. As he says that, Ryan demonstrates by putting the cap on himself. Arik also adds that “it comes complete with a stylish, multi-compartment plate that’s both dishwasher safe and magnetic”. With that, he sticks the plate onto Ryan’s head. The sharks laugh again.
Continuing with a huge smile, Ryan explains that the Snack Hat will allow people to work more while still spending time with their kids.
Arik goes on to acknowledge that their company doesn’t just have one product, but many. Turning around, he swivels their display to feature a different product- the Bathe and Brew, which “allows you to brew coffee in the shower”. The box is just as ridiculous as the Snack Hat’s and the sharks laugh again. They also introduce their “best-selling Pet Sweep”, which according to the box, is an “animal-powered debris removal system.”
Declaring that they solve problems for everyone, even the sharks, Ryan steps back to retrieve more of their products. They then give each of the sharks their own presents in the form of a wrapped box. They immediately rip them open and upon seeing what’s on the boxes, they all burst out laughing. Daymond receives a Baby Crib Feeder, Lori receives a virtual reality headset for cats, Mark receives a Roto Wipe, and Barbara receives a “Handy Hand”.
Once the sharks are done laughing, Ryan and Arik explain that their actual company is Prank-O and that they sell prank gift boxes. They subsequently take off their RynArik shirts to reveal red Prank-O shirts. Continuing, Ryan explains that their company puts “a new twist on gift-giving” and “life to any party”. Lori questions if there’s anything in the boxes and Mark explains that the boxes are the whole point of the product.
Ryan and Arik then moves their RynArik sign aside to reveal their actual Prank-O display. As the camera zooms in on their gift boxes, they explain that they’re designed so that people can hide their real gifts inside. The gifter can then “sit back and watch as the fun unfolds.”
Mark remarks that it’s brilliant. The pair then state their real purpose for being on the show- that they’re here to seek $640,000 in exchange for 8 percent of their company.
Daymond immediately comments on the different numbers and Mark explains that it was all part of the prank. Continuing, Ryan explains that they’ve sold more than $10 million of empty boxes since 2013. Daymond comments that it’s “kind of weird” but Barbara is impressed.
Daymond asks about the amount of business that they will be doing in 2018. Ryan thinks for a second before answering $2.8 million.
Kevin then asks about their business model and how they’re able to acquire customers. Ryan explains that they do mass retail as well as e-commerce. Asked about the costs of the box, they explain that the boxes are made for 66 cents and that they’re sold for $8 online. The sharks are surprised at the price.
Lori speaks next and asks the friends about their backgrounds. Ryan explains that he was one of the early partners of the The Onion. Mark is impressed but the other sharks are unfamiliar with what the company, which prompts him to explain that it’s a satirical newspaper. Continuing, Ryan tells them he worked at The Onion for 20 years and that he eventually met Arik, whom he started Prank-O with.
Lori then asks Arik about his background. Arik explains that he worked for 20 years as a self-employed graphic designer and that the idea for Prank-O hit him many years ago when he watched his nephew open what appeared to be a toaster oven, but that the box actually had real video games inside, and that he immediately began to work on a prototype.
Noting that the gift boxes are seasonal, Lori asks what they do the rest of the year. The pair explain that there are “541 billion gifting occasions” such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduation, Father’s Day, and Mother’s Day and that their goal is to market to those people.
Before they can continue, Mark asks about their sales and profits from the previous holiday season. Instead of telling him the numbers, however, Ryan states that they have to clarify a few things. He lets them know that while they started the company in 2013, they got distracted in 2016 and 2017 with other dealings. Upon probing, they reveal that they had tried to make actual prank products but that it didn’t work out.
Asked about their debt, they reveal that it’s currently at $1 million long-term. They also reveal that they’re currently working off a line of credit as they don’t have any money in the bank. Mark asks how much they’ve pulled so far from the line of credit, and they reply $3 million. The sharks are understandably surprised.
Lori goes on to share her thoughts. She states that while she likes the funny, clever idea, she’s not a fan of seasonal businesses and for that reason, she’s out.
Citing that the business is not investable, Daymond also goes out.
Ryan thanks them for their time and turns his attention to Barbara, who states that she isn’t impressed with their debt and lack of profit. Notinc that she’s not a fan of the numbers, she also goes out.
Mark comments that their problem is that they’re trying to do too much. Ryan reiterates the fact that they’ve refocused on Prank-O and that they have left the unsuccessful products behind. Kevin asks what Mark plans on doing and the latter surprises everyone by making the pair an offer. He notes that while they have a great product and that they’ve got “great comedy minds”, their track record speaks for itself. Regardless, he’s willing to offer them the $640,000 in exchange for 25 percent of the business, which is more than three times the equity that they initially offered.
Kevin notes that it’s an interesting offer. He also tells them that he’s in the industry in a big way with Lovepop Cards, Potato Parcel, and Wicked Good Cupcakes and that he’s experienced with the rotating SKUs and the seasonality of gifting. He goes on to say that there are two things that he can do for them- that he can help them smooth out the seasonality a bit and that he can also help them on their website so that their sales will go up. He reminds them that he already has millions of names that are going through his gift cycle with the three different companies.
Kevin then offers them the $640,000 but states that he wants 38 cents in royalty on every unit. He emphasizes that there’s no equity involved with the deal.
Mark adds to his sales pitch by saying that he could spend a buck a pop with the Mavs.
After some back and forth between the sharks, Ryan asks if Mark is he’s willing to lower the equity to 15 percent but he immediately says no. He also rejects their counteroffer of 20 percent with a line of credit. He states again that it needs to be 25 percent as “it’s gonna take a lot of work” and “a lot of guidance.”
Ryan then asks Kevin about the equity-free condition of his offer. He also asks if he’s willing to bring down the royalty fees. Kevin notes that he’s going to have to sell 1.7 million of the gift boxes to get his money back. Ryan is weary that the royalty deal will continue indefinitely.
Kevin adds to his pitch by saying that he will help them get business up without the middleman in the middle. He also brings in an example of Lovepop and says that they have many repeat customers every season.
Ryan tries once again to get Mark to lower the equity on his offer to no avail.
After a few tense seconds, they respectfully decline Kevin’s offer to go with Mark instead. Mark remarks that they made a good move and they all share a three-way hug before the two exits the tank.
Prank-O After Shark Tank
Unfortunately, the deal with Mark never went through. Being on the show, however, did give Prank-O a huge amount of exposure, with helped with sales. During the pandemic, business also expoded with various gag boxes such as The Toilet Paper Printer and The Toilet Paper Safe.
As of 2023, Prank-O is still in business. Looking at their website, they still sell a variety of prank gift boxes including Toilet Fingertip Brushes, Animal Translator Collars, Hand-free Device Collars, Birthing Selfie Stick, and Hay in a Needle Stack. The ones that were featured on the show (Magnetic Snack Hat, Roto Wipe, Pet Sweep, Handy Hand), are still available as well. The prices, however, have gone up a bit since they were in the tank- from $8 a box to $8.99 a box.
Aside from gift boxes, they’ve also started to sell prank flyers such as those for rodent care, tree trimming, mime theaters, and bat cafes. Unlike the gift boxes, however, the purchases are for a digital PDF copy of the flyer, which must be printed out.
That’s not all, they’ve also introduced joke cards and labels. For example, you can get a 4-pack of prank gift cards. They also offer prank wine labels that you can stick to your own bottles.
Various gag gifts are available as well such as prank soaps, micro jigsaw puzzles, fish whistle prank sets, and mugs.
For those who are interested, you can check out Prank-O’s website at pranko.com. As of writing this post, they are currently offering free shipping on all orders above $35. They also have an Amazon store, through which you can get free two-day Prime shipping.